Friday, March 19, 2010


"Would it really be just a dream at the point of transition from modernity to postmodernity to envisage the overcoming of conflicts between science and religion  ---  which often have ideological coloring  ---  by a new sharing, even though there are so many different perspectives on the evolution of the cosmos and human beings?"  Hans Kung in his introduction to "The Beginning of All Things:  Science and Religion"

Monday, March 15, 2010

Diversity versus Common Ground

Diversity. We are all different, something to be celebrated indeed. However, I doubt that I could use the word “we” in the previous sentence without having something in common with my fellow human beings. Christian diversity. One source of it is in the New Testament itself. Another source is in the very different, specific situations that all persons and communities find themselves and the choices they make. However, we have indeed reached a sad place when any Christian can say that “we do not believe in the same Jesus”. It is because of this sadness that I am interested in what Christians share in common. Not for the purpose of preserving any particular old orthodoxy or for convincing anyone of a new orthodoxy, but for the sake of love and community.

While I do not think that a fundamentalist perspective lacks the ability to communicate the gospel to some people, I find that its lack of openness to the world and its resistance to new understandings causes this perspective to fail many people, including myself. I find myself willing to explore any possibility. I think that puts me firmly on the progressive side. However, I do not view myself as a progressive Christian. I view myself as a Christian. But, my openness causes some to put me on the “outside” of the faith. That is sad. This sadness motivates me to search for some common ground. While I do not come from a Catholic tradition, I think the Hans Kung has some interesting things to say about our common Christian faith. Because of his influence, when I use an adjective to modify my Christianity, I use “ecumenical”.

1 Thessalonians is probably the first surviving text of the Christian faith. Paul starts his letter by describing the church of the Thessalonians as “in God and the Lord Jesus Christ”. I must admit that I have not made much progress, that is satisfying, toward a common ground. However, for me, the very fact of the New Testament writings themselves is one common ground on which we can stand. No matter how much more a Christian may want to say about the New Testament, I would hope that we could all agree that it is the permanent starting point for our common identity. Dare I say more?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Christianity, Technology and Beyond.

I think that most Christians would agree that technology should be used in the spread of the good news of Jesus Christ. I am not sure that the Christian communities can yet discern all of the ways that technology could be used, the ways that should be used, or the consequences of using technology.

One advantage of technology is that our message can be communicated faster, less expensively, and to more people where they are at any given time. As a result, more people can participate in the process of thinking about our faith. This freedom to participate could lead to more passion, commitment, and creativity. Additionally, some technologies put the expression of faith into a public space open to direct challenge and debate, possibly strengthening our own perspectives.

However, there could be some disadvantages. As more people can express themselves, the diversity of viewpoints can multiply. Those concerned with issues of orthodoxy versus heresy may find the diversity of interpretations overwhelming. Even today, if one ventures an expression of faith in any online venue, one will find many differences of opinion. Some of them are informed, but many are poorly informed. It is difficult to weigh these many opinions. It could lead to confusion. With the large fissures between Roman Catholicism, the Orthodox, and Protestantism along with the tremendous fractionalization within Protestantism itself, Christianity may already have completed a very tall tower of Babel. Technology may make it worse before it gets better, if it does ever get better. Also, as our message enters further into the public square, Christians may lose the debate. The use of technology may also lead to de-personalization and a further emphasis on the individuality of our faith. While certain technologies may help us overcome these issues, (at the risk of sounding sappy), sometimes there is no substitute for a shoulder to cry on, a helping hand when we fall, or a community of love to accept us as we are.

Beyond these issues of technology, I see three major inter-related challenges. First, Christians need a clear, simple, straightforward, understandable expression of our faith that does not needlessly put us at odds with our worldviews nor make us appear delusional. At the same time, our expression of faith, while informed by our increasing knowledge, cannot abandon core truths of Christianity. I keep listening! Quite a challenge. Second, Christianity needs men and women who have experienced the power of God in Jesus Christ in their lives, experiences that will drive a passion and commitment that overcomes the call of comfort, power, recognition, or wealth. A passion and commitment that opens the hearts and lives of other people. Finally, Christians need to build communities of faith, acceptance, equality, freedom, justice, and love in which the kingdom of God draws near.